When VW used a 21-window microbus as a corporate executive shuttle
On a Saturday evening last august, I stepped outside my hotel on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. Finn Horsley and his wife, Brennen Jensen, were standing curbside next to their exquisite 1964 21-window Microbus, my ride to a Volkswagen dinner some 15 miles away. During the drive up Highway 68 out of Monterey, I leaned over the front-row seatback to hear more about how Finn, who runs a dental laboratory, and Brennen, an environmental consultant, ended up as chauffeurs and tour guides during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance weekend for a group of Volkswagen executives and media folks from Germany and the U.S.
Turns out the world of beautifully restored old Volkswagens that reside within driving distance of the Monterey Peninsula has only a couple degrees of separation. Finn’s VW mechanic, Jim Fowler of Get Hot Bug Shop, worked with noted Monterey VW collector Rick Clark to assemble a fleet of buses to shuttle Volkswagen’s corporate guests. The fleet was also intended to draw attention to VW’s official announcement that it will, finally, make a modern version of the Microbus, an electric-powered vehicle based on the I.D. Buzz concept car. Finn and Brennen happily signed up to share their bus on their home turf, figuring they’d have a good time and maybe gain admission to some of the swank car events happening around the peninsula.
Finn enthusiastically relayed this story to me over his shoulder while he flogged the 1.5-liter air-cooled four to get us up and over the 1261-foot Laureles Grade. I was astonished to learn their bus was rehabbed 14 years ago. The restoration, done by ISP West, a Los Angeles shop specializing in Volkswagens, has held up well. Finn bought the bus in 2005 from the parent company of Mentos, which had used it for a 10-city tailgate tour during the 2003 college football season. He hit the jackpot, scooping it up, sans the Mentos-branded shrink wrap from the tour, for only $20,000. “I bought it sight unseen,” Finn recalled, “but I had it appraised by a gentleman, and he said, ‘Oh, this is an amazing find.’ ”
All seven of the buses in the courtesy fleet were fine specimens, but Finn’s took pride of place next to the I.D. Buzz during Volkswagen’s press conference on the concours ramp at Pebble Beach. With that exposure, Finn said, “the pedigree of the bus has gone through the roof. VW says it might have other uses for it.”
This bus is just one member of Finn and Brennen’s diverse vehicular family. Finn recently replaced his 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera, which he’d owned for 11 years, with a 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor. “It’s black, same as the Carrera!” Finn grinned. “I just turned my Porsche into a truck.” Brennen rolled her eyes. “I kid Finn that he had his midlife crisis early, in his 20s, and bought the 911,” she said. “Now he’s got the Raptor.”
Finn was quick to defend himself. “I just felt like the Raptor was so cool. It has a 10-speed transmission! I love it so much. Hey, I plant trees, I recycle!”
Brennen recently turned in her leased Fiat 500e and is wait-listed for a Tesla Model 3. “I have to offset his Raptor’s carbon footprint with my electrics,” she said, deadpan. She also owns a 2002 Suzuki SV650S; Finn’s preferred two-wheeler is a 2007 Ducati 1098. The couple share an Aprilia RS250 two-stroke and a 2010 Ural, a Russian-built sidecar motorcycle with a custom Sahara Sand paint job. Finn sometimes uses the Ural to make deliveries from his dental lab to dentists’ offices around Monterey. “What’s great about the Ural is that it’s flat, it doesn’t lean,” said Finn. “And the sidecar is like having a trunk.”